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Over on the Whatever, John Scalzi is being very much, well, John Scalzi. While I was reading this entry, I said to my husband, hey! I want to do this!

And, before something like sanity, or at least dignity, could take hold, Mr. Scalzi closed his post with: A challenge to other authors with blogs, LiveJournals and etc: Post your one-star (or otherwise negative) Amazon reviews, if you have them, and you probably do. Oh, go on. Own your one-star reviews, man. And then, you know. Get past them. If you're lucky, some of them might actually be fun to read.

My husband Thomas said: People will feel they should praise your work to compensate for the negativity of those reviews. Which is sort of beside the point of the exercise, and if you do this, you will make me feel very, very, very guilty.

For the record: I don't really care about the one star reviews. If they have a point, I generally wince and take a mental note not to mess up so badly the next time. If they have no point, I think they're kind of funny. The West bad reviews are less inherently funny because I often can't tell if they have a point or not (but when I am having this dilemma, I remember the Starlog review for Broken Crown, in which the reviewer very perceptively noted that you will either love the book for the level of detail and cultural tapestry, or you will loathe it for the same reason. Which reminded me that in some cases, what people hate is the book I did try to write, as opposed to the obvious failure of the attempt to write the book I tried to write. If that makes sense.)

Broken Crown
Boring and difficult to follow
Ms. West/Sagura writes well and her sentences are well-constructed, but she skips all over the place without explanations for the reader so it is impossible to follow the story. She focuses on one character for a few pages, then abruptly switches to another leaving the reader without a protagonist. There is no cohesion or logic to the changes and after awhile, I just gave up trying to piece it together. If you want to read a long, absorbing story with a cast of hundreds, try the George R. R. Martin series "A Song of Ice and Fire". The first book of that series is "A Game of Thrones"

Hunter's Oath

I was unable to reach any rapport with the characters except possibly for Evayne, and her role mostly raises questions. All of the other characters are two-dimensional and indecipherable.
I do not recommend this book unless you want to fail to enjoy empathy with under-developed characters in a circular plot that goes nowhere and ends in a cliffhanger.

Uncrowned King(this was actually a 2 star review, but, ummm, I couldn't resist this one line)
these books were recommened by a friend (dont know if i should call him a friend anymore after trying to read through these books).

Cast In Shadow
"I honestly don't know how this book earned so many 4-5 star reviews. When I bought it I actually hoped for a "Linda K Hamilton-esque" type of book - I mean sort of a junk food for the brain type of fantasy...But I can't even finish this book. I confess I am on page 113 and I can go no further.I just wonder - who edits this krap and decides to print it? Just awful.
To describe - it's like if you mixed a bad Sci-Fi channel movie with a bad Lifetime channel movie and then fill with charecters from your junior high school."

"Very intriguing plot line, but very badly delivered. If I had a dollar for every time the word "Hawk" was used, I'd be able to pay off my new car! Geez, I understand the character was a member of the Hawks, I don't need to read "I'm a Hawk" on every other page! Whomever edited this book should be fired. This reads like a first draft dictated to a typing program. It's really sad because the story idea is very good, but its buried under so much unnecessary stuff. Save your money and treat yourself to something better."

I think possibly my favourite was the reference to "Linda K Hamilton-esque", but that is a momentary mean streak. Well, and krap, for the same reason.

But overall? These don't bother me.

I've said elsewhere, and I might as well say it here again: Reading and responding to what you've read is one of life's pleasures; sometimes little, sometimes great. When you read a book that you loved beyond all reason, you want to tell everyone about it because you want to share that experience. Venting spleen when you have wasted two hours of your life, and some brain cells, on a book that you have thrown against the wall at least twice is also one of life's pleasures. Or, well. You get the general idea.

I feel free to do this, as a reader. I want to continue to feel free to do this, as a reader. Therefore, since I want to benefit from the ability to do this as a reader, I can't take umbrage as a writer. Also: I like reading book reviews. I like reading blogs in which people post reviews. One LJ, in which I lurked completely invisibly, got friends-locked because an author took offense at a review of her work, many months after it had been posted, and in a completely stupid, pointless, ad hominem, vaguely threatening way. I can no longer read those reviews because the author did this, and it makes me grumpy. And I lurked invisibly because the LJ owner had, in fact, posted a negative review of Cast in Shadow, and I didn't want to be an obvious presence because I didn't want her to feel that she couldn't, you know, say whatever she wanted about my books.

Most people are polite and considerate, and if they know the author is reading, they will either say nothing at all if they didn't like the book, or take ten hours trying to say they didn't like it in the most tactful way possible, and I don't want them to feel that pressure.

But, I suppose in the interests of full disclosure, the reviews that often bother me are the three star reviews, because those ones are usually a sign to me that I have somehow planted a prose foot wrong, and I've missed my audience. It's those reviews that I steer clear of, unless I'm feeling manic, because it's those reviews that make me wonder if I shouldn't have gone into plumbing. It's those reviews that make me feel that I've failed the book, or the reader.

And yes, if in the next two weeks, there's a whole spate of Brand New Three Star Amazon reviews, I'm going to wonder about the sense of humour of some of my LJ readers. Just saying.


Apr. 25th, 2008 04:56 am (UTC)
Honestly, I think some readers just aren't up to reading anything as long and detailed as the Sun Sword series. They're going to get confused and frustrated, and blame the book for their own lack of ability. There are also some people who just want fluff, but I figure they should have figured out that if a book is several inches thick, they should pass it up.

I don't usually bother talking about the books that I don't like. I'd much rather enthuse about the ones that I do! I did take the time to write a negative review of one book by a well-known author, because it was just SO egregiously bad that in her shoes I think I'd buy all extant copies and then let it go out of print (I think it was a first novel). I'd gone to some trouble to track it down, because I'm a completist, and I hadn't been able to find any reviews before I read it. I figured that if I could save someone else that trouble, I would.

I do try to divide "this is well-written" from "but I just don't like it," because that does happen. There are some perfectly good writers who just don't toast my bread. I generally realize that with just one taste, although if I hear a lot of good stuff I may nibble again. I got all of one author's books out of the local library recently, and was really looking forward to enjoying them. After reading one set in her big series and one standalone, I gave up. She's not bad, but not for me.
Apr. 25th, 2008 05:40 am (UTC)
On a wierd tangent.. Ar you the same technomom from FARK?
Apr. 25th, 2008 07:03 am (UTC)
I use TechnoMom most places, but I can't ever recall posting to Fark :-) There's a Joanne who posts to /. and a few other places as technomom, so it might be her.
Apr. 28th, 2008 05:31 am (UTC)
There's fluff out there that is several inches thick.
Apr. 28th, 2008 06:29 am (UTC)
Really? I don't believe I've run across much of it. Then again, I'm not fond of fluff. I was thinking of, say, the Marywhosis Davidson "Queen Betsy" books as "fluff." Not intended to be more, adequate for what they are, easy to read, mildly entertaining, and short enough that most people don't quail at the sight of them.
Apr. 28th, 2008 07:48 am (UTC)
There's fluff out there that is several inches thick.

There is, indeed. And I adore some of it. I understand that some of my novels don't fill that function. I also understand that they're not for everybody. I try not to blame the books (or myself) and I also don't find it useful to blame the readers. I've tried, with the CAST books, to write something more accessible, and I try to make clear that the two are tonally very different (or they feel that way to me).

But yes, it's not always clear from the covers and back blurbs what the book will be, and I think we've all picked up books we don't like because we pick up cues from packaging.
Apr. 28th, 2008 07:58 am (UTC)
I think what frustrates me more is when, after I've read a book that I like, I look at the blurbs and the packaging and see that it very poorly represents the book. Making a book seem more interesting than what it is can be excused as marketing, but making it seem lame when it's not..?
Apr. 28th, 2008 07:42 am (UTC)
Honestly, I think some readers just aren't up to reading anything as long and detailed as the Sun Sword series. They're going to get confused and frustrated, and blame the book for their own lack of ability. There are also some people who just want fluff, but I figure they should have figured out that if a book is several inches thick, they should pass it up.

There are times when I don't want anything complicated or detailed as well; I don't consider it a reader fault, but if I want and expect chocolate chips and someone gives me raisins, I'm likely to be a bit cranky. So I understand that the book's timing and the reader's timing are mismatched, and I don't blame either. Except on those very dreary days, when I feel that if I were somehow clearer, the books would work for more people.

But I do try to warn people if they're looking for something I think the book isn't.
Apr. 28th, 2008 08:24 am (UTC)
I'm in the mood for fluff now and then. I end up spending a lot of time in doctor's waiting rooms, and the atmosphere is too distracting for some books that need more thought.

How do you go about trying to warn people? I've always assumed that most authors have little to no control over the packaging/marketing of their books. Otherwise, there wouldn't be so many covers that have little or nothing to do with the content of the book.